Four Ways to Celebrate Black History Month

In a smart Slate piece about more thoughtful ways to celebrate Black History Month, Aisha Harris implores readers to do more — to make an effort to learn something new about the black community or experience.

So if you haven’t already, now’s a great time to start. We’ve gathered some ideas below — these upcoming events will broaden your perspective and offer insight into the past, present and future of African-American culture. Each is guaranteed to be engaging and thought-provoking, and all are accessible by transit.

Cascade Festival of African Films

Thursday, Friday and Saturday screenings through March 5 at PCC Cascade Campus’ Moriarty Arts & Humanities Building. Free.

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The films being shown this year take on subjects as varied as urban life, gender equality and religious fundamentalism, but the majority of them share a common trait: They were made by African directors. This makes for a great opportunity to explore the continent’s diverse cultures through the lens of first-hand experience.

The festival’s centerpiece film, Run, plays February 19 at 7 p.m. at the Hollywood Theatre. Free.

The festival’s centerpiece film is Run, which takes place in the present-day Ivory Coast. The story reflects on the journey of a man named Run, who is in hiding after assassinating the country’s prime minister. It’s described as “impassioned and poetic…a strong allegory for the people and history of contemporary Ivory Coast.”

Portland Black Film Festival

Through February 27 at the Hollywood Theatre. General admission $8.

Bringing things closer to home, this young film festival focuses on the black experience in America. Seven films will be screened, including A Ballerina’s Tale, the story of prodigal ballerina Misty Copeland, and the only known print of Catch My Soul, a 1974 rock opera treatment of Othello (!).

African American Read-In

February 14 at 2 p.m. at the North Portland Library; Teen Read-In is February 26 at 4 p.m. at the St. Johns Library. Free.

Two Multnomah County Libraries have gathered community leaders, teachers, students and local celebrities to read from their favorite books by black authors — but you can do more than just listen. Everyone will be able to share words from their favorite works, and children and young adults will be able to enjoy special gatherings.

PDX Jazz Fest

February 18–26 at a dozen Portland venues. Tickets for individual shows from $15.

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This festival began 13 years ago as a Black History Month initiative to heighten jazz outreach and education in Portland, and now it’s bringing world-class performances to our city. Jazz is one of America’s most celebrated art forms, with roots in hundreds of years of the black experience — but it’s not all history. What you’ll discover at these shows and talks is that jazz is an ever-evolving medium.

So whether you’re at an intimate club like the iconic Jimmy Mak’s or seated in the Newmark Theater, taking in a tribute to the greats or watching a virtuoso harpist who has recorded with Drake, you’re sure to marvel at how vital jazz really is.


The final point Harris makes in her article is that we need to continue this conversation year-round — not just every February. So after you’ve enjoyed the festivals and events, consider that there is infinitely more to share and learn. There are people to meet, businesses to become acquainted with, books to read and lots of history to consider.

All this is especially important to us as a transit service (as everyone who knows Rosa Parks’ story can attest). We have an ongoing responsibility to steer our legacy toward fairness, understanding and appreciation — that’s what drives our transit equity and diversity work, and why we encourage everyone to celebrate Black History Month.

Brian Lum

Brian Lum

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Specialist. I'm here to help tell our story, and to share the interesting things I find along the way. When I'm not here, you'll find me out riding my bike and taking pictures.

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